It is a fact of life that a primary marker of the human ageing process is the degree to which an individual remains up to date with the latest developments in anything. Or, more specifically, where any person is at any particular time on the spectrum ranging from ‘up to date’ (at one end) and – no longer caring that he or she is not – being behind the times (at the other).
Music and modern technology are the key indicators.
If – like me – you are in your seventh decade, you will have noted that your taste in popular music stopped progressing about thirty-five years ago.
Technology, of course, is – and remains – a more telling taskmaster.
In days gone by, folklore had it that whenever installers of the then new-fangled video recorder machines arrived at an address, they were trained to ask the purchaser if, by any chance, they had a child aged four or above, to whom they could explain its operation. The industry had discovered that this was a less frustrating and swifter way of gaining customer satisfaction, and thereby being able to move on to the next job, than trying to get the messages across to an adult.
I need to confess here that technology and your author have never been easy bedfellows.
In the previous house to the one I now occupy, the first time I learned the location of the gas meter [answer: under the stairs] was when we came to sell and I needed to know this, the better to show prospective buyers around.
Even though – as with any self-respecting establishment – my current property possesses a washing machine, to this day I neither know how to operate it, nor indeed actually use it. My kids and others do that, whilst I have always preferred to take my clothes to a local launderette. At least they always return from there on hangars, clean, pressed and ready to wear … rather than cluttering up the place, airing and waiting to be ironed, as everyone else’s does.
A decade ago, for my sins, I bought a brand new Porsche Boxster. When my son next came home, I had to ask him to help with pre-setting the stations on the in-car radio/CD player which was proving beyond me, despite the copious instructions in the handbook.
As, with a deep sigh, he slid into the passenger seat, he tossed the manual I had just presented to him into the back and switched the radio on with a comment to the effect “Let’s just fire her up and see what happens … “.
About three minutes later, after he had punched the buttons in a blur, I had eight radio stations pre-programmed [only three of which I ever used] and he was on his way out of the car park and back to our flat.
Six years ago, I made a valiant attempt to remain relevant by acquiring a Blackberry smartphone.
After struggling with it for four years – and, I should estimate, never having used more than 10% of its capabilities – I decided that I only needed a mobile phone for making calls or sending text messages and ‘traded down’ to a bog-standard Nokia example.
Yesterday morning, by now well beyond my two-year initial contract, I upgraded myself back to a smartphone.
Partly, I did this because of vanity. I had begun to sense that others were beginning to label me as an ‘oldie’ simply because my phone of choice was a basic Nokia. However, on this occasion I had done my homework. The tech-mags I had been buying for three months had all fingered the HTC One as being way ahead of other smartphones in the ‘best value for money’ stakes.
Back home, I began trying to input my contacts. This took all day and involved countless complications and/or blind alleys, via the laborious ‘trial & error’ system I was employing, a method that was effectively forced upon me because – when I asked the man in the Vodafone shop how easy the instruction manual would be to follow – he advised that one didn’t exist. Apparently, this was not something that modern [by which he meant young] users needed.
What irritates me about technology is that it never does what you instruct it to do.
At least with a typewriter, it did exactly what you wanted – no more, no less. Computers do not. For example, I can never lay out a Word document with bullet points and headings how I want – because Microsoft, or whatever other software system is deployed, won’t allow it.
Anyway. I am now the proud owner of a new smartphone. My ambition this morning – now that it has fully charged for the first time overnight – is to discover how to make a bloody phone call.
Wish me luck.